by Andrew Louw – DA Northern Cape Premier Candidate
Error! Filename not specified.
Date: 18 November 2018
The Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Northern Cape will request a detailed breakdown of contingent liabilities against the Health Department from MEC Fufe Makatong.
During the department’s recent Annual Report presentation, rising legal claims against the department once again came under the spotlight. Legal claims to the value of over R400 million have been instituted against the department in the past year alone. In effect, the department is now facing claims to the value of R1,844 billion.
Medical negligence claims account for the biggest portion of the claims facing the department, and currently stand at R1,6 billion.
This is deeply concerning as it means that, if all the claims are successful, the ailing department could be bankrupted. It also means that the department could lose a quarter of its budget, that could rather have been used to improve service delivery, on compensating patients for damages.
It is unlikely that errant doctors and nurses alone are responsible for these mounting medical negligence claims. Instead, this constant rise in medico-legal costs is a symptom of a much more serious problem.
Growing medico-legal claims speak to a number of issues including a lack of staff, overworked staff, improperly qualified staff, shortage of pharmaceuticals, the absence of critical equipment, lack of maintenance of equipment, deficient medical supplies, not enough operational ambulances, issues pertaining to hygiene, failure to secure patient records, poor patient safety and so on.
In fact, Kimberley Hospital just recently experienced a power outage whereby generators failed to kick in for fifteen minutes. During this time, patients lay on operating tables under cellphones lights of medical staff. Instances like this are detrimental to patient’s lives and could also very likely generate additional claims against the department.
The department’s deteriorating financial state, which sees it unable to pay service providers and suppliers, further exposes it to additional legal action for breach of contract, for which the department incurred R66 million worth of claims in the past year.
It cannot be tolerated that people must risk acquiring disabilities and even risk losing their lives because of incompetent management of the Health Department.
There is no doubt that sub-standard health care provision to the people of the province is being mirrored by growing legal claims against the Northern Cape Health Department.
Only change under a DA-led government will ensure that poor financial management and quality assurance issues are dealt with so that the standard of health care in the Northern Cape can be raised.